Takamatsu

While visiting Takamatsu, Kongo toured the famous Ritsurin Gardens. The garden literally means “chestnut grove garden” and there are plenty of chestnut trees here. It was started by a feudal lord in the early 1600s and it wasn’t finished for 100 years.  The garden is a major attraction of the city of Takamatsu and one of the most historic gardens in all of Japan. It’s a favorite outing for children and these primary school students warmly greeted the monkey with waves and chants of “hello! hello!” There are more than 1,200 pine trees in this garden and they are all…

A Day in Kyoto

There are 1,600 temples in Kyoto and the monkey was doing his best to see some of them. After mooring in the port city of Kobe, Kongo climbed aboard the bullet train (Shinkansen), the  for a quick ride to Kyoto. Bullet trains travel at speeds up to 200 mph and they are smooth, quiet, really cool. There are even airline-like stewardesses to keep you nourished while you zip along. The stations at Kobe and Kyoto are filled with teeming throngs of travelers, groups of school children headed out on field trips, and businessmen and women heading to important meetings further down…

Yashimaji-Ji Temple

High on a plateau overlooking the modern city of Takamatsu is the ancient temple known as Yahimaji-Ji. Founded in 754 by a Chinese monk named Ganjin. The bright red Torii gate reflects the Chinese influence on this mountain-top temple. Beautiful Buddhist icons and pagodas cover the mountain. The site also offers spectacular views of the city of Takamatsu and the Inland Sea. Legend has it that the Chinese monk who founded the temple was blind but was somehow led to this spot by a raccoon. So there are plenty of raccoon statues about to remind us of this happy hook-up…

Hiroshima Peace Park

It was a sobering afternoon. After visiting Miyajima, Kongo headed to downtown Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial Park. memorializing that day in August, 1945 that ushered in the Atomic Age.  Although the bomb hastened the end of World War II and may have saved millions of lives had the Allies had to invade the Japanese islands, hundreds of thousands were killed instantly in the explosion and by the effects of radiation in the following years. The iconic A-Bomb Dome used to be an industrial hall for the Hiroshima prefecture.  The shell of the building was only a few hundred…

Miyajima Monkey

The monkey has been waiting two years for yesterday. Ever since the Kongos booked this Japanese cruise, the simple simian has been wanting to see the floating gate at the sacred island of Miyajima. This small island in Hiroshima Bay known for its temples, virgin forests, deer, and the O-torii Gate. It was the O-torri gate that Kongo wanted to see but the rest of the island is pretty wowie-zowie too. The O-Torii Gate is a waterway entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine. Visitors passing beneath the gate (like those in the boat above) are said to have all the sins…

Beautiful Busan

After an overnight sail across the Inland Sea, Kongo arrived in the port city of Busan, South Korea. Busan is the second largest city in South Korea with about four million residents. Kongo has visited here before during his navy days a couple of ages ago. The monkey’s memory is a bit foggy (navy liberty can cause this) but it seems that the city is all grown up now. Between the busy waterfront, the bustling streets, and an over-the-top fish market there is plenty to see and do in Busan. Kongo strolled an elevated walkway built over the ocean to…

Mountain Monkey

There’s nothing quite like a sacred mountain by the sea to get the monkey’s juices flowing. Yesterday he spent the day hiking around Mt. Daisen in the southwestern part of the island of Honshu. Soaring about 5,400 feet above the Sea of Japan this is another volcanic mountain created over hundreds of thousands of years by several eruptions. Since about 70% of Japan is mountainous, it’s inevitable that you’re going to spend some time with them and every town seems to have its own sacred mountain. At one time there were at least 30 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines scattered…